The Past, The Future, Quality, and ASQ

I’ve been working on the ASQ 2011 Future of Quality Study for the past couple of weeks, so I’ve been spending a lot of time in the future. Many possible futures, which is the point of the study. Working in the future often invites me to reflect on the past. I have a need to connect the dots. Past and future.

I joined ASQ in 1984. I began working for ASQ in 1986. I suspect I was called to quality long before 1984, but that’s a different story.

I have two questions on my mind and would welcome your response. The first question stems from the past. The second question is about the future.

The Past: The philosophy of modern quality reaches back to the late 1930s and 1940s. That’s not so long ago, but it might be ancient history. I’ve been in three large quality gatherings in the past year where the question was asked, “How many of you have heard of W. Edwards Deming?” I was shocked and saddened when less than a third of the hands went up. “How about Joseph M. Juran?” Fewer hands. It occurs to me that something isn’t right about that. Am I being nostalgic, or does the quality community bear some responsibility for making sure its philosophic foundations are not lost to history?

The Future: What do professionals under the age of 35 see as the future of quality? Perhaps for most of the readers, this will mean asking someone who fits the demographic, although I’d be pleased to learn that young professionals read my blog. Why the question? Well, I’m guessing the panel of 150 experts from around the world who contributed to the ASQ Futures Study are all much senior to 35, so the future the study paints is one described by a senior group. What do the 35s and under think and see, on a global scale?

The insight you gather may well connect the dots between the first and second question.

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30 Responses to The Past, The Future, Quality, and ASQ

  1. Thank you Paul! Important issue – capturing the history for those who follow.

    I’ve made my response – and it may be found here:

  2. Wayne G. Fischer, PhD says:

    “Those who don’t know the past are condemned to repeat it.” {apologies to George Santayana, American philosopher} … and a key part of that “knowing” is to research the past so that “If we see far it is because we stand on the shoulders of giants.” {apologies to Isaac Newton}.

    My theory? That too many (young) quality “professionals” got what little they know about quality from some expensive four-week course, plus “studying” for some kind of certification exam. And there their learning stopped…because their objective was to get certified…more for their resume than the learning and knowing. Their “output” shows up as advice on LinkedIn, articles in Quality Progress, … covering that which was known (and published) decades ago or worse, getting it wrong {“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” – unknown}

    Why would anyone want to “know” the future from those who don’t know the past?

  3. Bryan Miller says:

    Quality began a long time before the 1920s and 1930s. Please refer to the ASQC Quality Press book by Juran entitled: (italics) A History of Managing for Quality The Evolution, Trends, and Future Directions of Managing for Quality.
    ISBN 0-87389-341-7

    • Paul Borawski says:

      I have Dr. Juran’s book on my shelf. And yes improvement leading to higher quality goes well back in history, I referenced “modern quality.” Thanks for the insight.

  4. Muthu says:

    Hello Paul,
    I am in my mid twenties and am very happy to be part of ASQ. Below are some of the things I see as the Future of Quality:

    1. Quality Professionals being Teachers/ Facilitator to different groups in the Company

    During Quality Council meetings/Internal Audits, Process owners can be made aware (i) how to build quality into a product, service or a process (ii) different process improvement methodologies and quality tools. And if they are interested additional information can be provided on training available on Lean, Six Sigma, TOC, Statistical courses, ISO, Project Management standard.

    2. Leadership, Negotiation skills

    These critical skills can be improved upon by volunteering in Professional Organizations. Quality professionals need to know what Management wants and should be able to deliver it in a format they want it. Reading books on these topics helps.

    3. Continuous Improvement (People,Products, Services, Processes):
    As Quality professionals we need to embrace continuous improvement. We should continuously update ourselves to increase our knowledge and also share them.

    We need to continuously improve our processes to make them more effective and efficient. Product and Services need to provide more value to the customer. Capturing the Voice of the Customer (VOC) will become more important than ever.

  5. Kevin Wilson says:

    I completely agree with Wayne. I am close to the demographic of ‘Young Quality Professional” but have studied the past extensively. I see many newcomers to the field that get into the profession to fill a needed role at a company, then they get certifications, and only know the basics and quality from the point of view of the company where they work. It’s quite scary when you remove them from the setting they are in, and one can see how little of the tools and history they really know and understand.

    As for the future, I can only hope that there is a resurgence in academia that will better prepare the younger quality professionals for what lies ahead.

  6. Bob Campbell says:

    There used to be a TV commercial out when Japanese products were taking over many markets circa. 1980. It’s tag line was “we wrote the book on quality” and they held up the AT&T book, written in the 1920′s. Truly this profession has a long and solid history as evidenced by the folks that wrote that book (Shewhart, Juran, Deming etc.). It’s been interesting to watch our evolution from a statistical based profession to a cultural change agent leadership function within our society and businesses. Who knows how our profession will change and grow in the future…but I’m all in. (Memeber since 1975)

    • Ken Stephens says:

      In your comments, just what do you mean by the “AT&T book”? Are you referring to the “Statistical Quality Control Handbook” published in 1956 by the Western Electric Co. Inc.? Since WE no longer exists, this book has become identified with AT&T. While a committee was formed to work on this book the chairman of the Writing Committee was Bonnie Small who did most of the writing. I was privileged to have Bonnie Small as a tutor from 1955 when I joined Western Electric in Allentown, PA.

  7. Cecilia Kimberlin says:


    As one of those approaching the dinosaur phase in the eyes of those 35 and under, I commend you on reaching out to our future quality leaders. The rate of change is accelerating and we need those budding Juran’s and Deming’s to be even more engaged today. As you said, many of us were drawn to quality and I think that appeal is still fundamental. From what I have heard, if we can attract their hearts, we will have them forever! I encourage our future leaders to share with us their thoughts and concerns. Enlighten us on building anew on the strength of the learning from the past .

  8. The poor response about knowledge of Deming and Juran is no surprise to me. My response relates to the lack of teaching the quality body of knowledge in undergraduate degree programs with the notable exceptions of industrial engineering, manufacturing engineering, and operations management. Paul, twenty years ago Don Zook and I tried to put together a degree program in Quality Engineering. The only accreditation criteria that were available and would fit were the criteria for manufacturing engineering (you may not remember, but you agreed with that assessment). We finally gave up because of the difficulties we perceived in finding interested students. Sadly, ASQ is practically non-existent entity in the academic world of undergraduate engineering. My solution is to be aggressive in getting our BOK into undergraduate curriculum. These are the students that will want certifications and be active in quality. (Graduate programs teach more about quality, but that is a different conversation.)

  9. Michael Clayton says:

    Sadly, Wayne is correct from my experience of over 50 years fighting real factory quality problems. ASQC becoming ASQ was the start of the move towards absentee ownership of real factory quality. Isolated QA departments were created about that time, where before, quality was an operational engineering problem that was solved by better controls on the tools and processes, and by better metrology for the product measurements. That has not stopped, but the “Quality Community” has been isolated from the realtime effort, and caught up in personal power games rather than trench warfare. “Not my job” became the defense for avoiding those “factory ratholes” in favor of the infamous powerpoint summary of “what went wrong” after the fact, leading to more cuts in the factory, and more promotions and isolation in QA. Just one opinion, for manufacturing operations, but service operations suffer from the inability to deal with human factors with fuzzy metrics. They try to use the language of process control and improvement tools from years of factory experience in a scenario where their are no precision gages of quality. That only adds cost to the service. Simplify the service quality systems, and get back to the “rat hole” of process control in manufacturing. Bring back into ASQ those engineers who left when the C was dropped not only from the name, but from the focus, a sad time in ASQC-ASQ history. And use modern data mining and analytic methods to focus the services efforts on value-added rather than factory-based-quality-systems misapplied in services.

  10. Michael Clayton says:

    I just read and enjoyed fellow ex-Motorolan Guy Wallace’s nice blog on a Wiki solution to our history sharing. I completely agree with him on many levels. And thanks for the famous Motorola training and other pictures. Mine are all stored on an old Mac SE hard drive, or earlier pre-Xerox, Kodak slides.

    My advice to the current QA folks out there, if you always been in QA and never worked for more than a year in the trench warfare of operations, transfer there NOW for at least 2 years, and when you tranfer back you will be able to transform your perhaps isolated QA silo into a wiser servant of the customer. Or, hopefully, you will be the customer advocate inside operations and rise to the top of that structure and on to the CEO spot.

  11. The line ‘those who do not study history are bound to repeat it’ is appropriate for those wbo are referring to bad history but not unfortunately necessarily to good history. The good history in the context of quality refers to the Japanese post war industrial revolution of which Dr Juran commented in Sweden in I think 1966. I am paraphrasing being on holiday away from my references. ‘the japanese revolution in quality is a tremendous one which no other. Kuntry has been able to emulate. Through this movenent Japan will be swept to world leadership in quality. Not only was thus remark prophetic regarding Western Management, the West isnow suffering severy from the fact that the concepts aee being emulated by China, India and ogher rapidly advancing countries. Unless the West also addresses this issue then General Motors will be the first of many to face crushing competition. To confront this it is not only Juran and Deming who must be considered but also The influence of Professor Ishikawa and his Father, Homer Sarasohn, Charles Pottinger, even Gen. McArthur, dr Taguchi and several others. They should also take into account what the Japanese had even. Ecore WW2. How about the Zero fighter’s capabilities and the strategy leading to Pearl Habour? I well understandf that some of this might be difficult to stomach but if the West is to get its act together it has to grasp the nettle or sink slowly and sublimely into eventual oblivion. As Deming said ‘survival is not compulory’

    • Paul Borawski says:

      David, thank you for weighing in. For those that don’t know David, amongst many other accomplishments he authored a chapter in Dr. Juran’s book “A History of Managing for Quality” (1995) Chapter 14 – The History of Managing for Quality in the U.K. You rightly point to many other contributors to the history of quality. The potential future you paint is a chilling one. And not without merit in a doomsday scenario. I prefer alternative views and think there’s reason to be encouraged.

  12. Peter says:

    Q: Am I being nostalgic, or does the quality community bear some responsibility for making sure its philosophic foundations are not lost to history?
    A: If someone doesn’t know who Deming and Juran are, I agree it is quite sad and it doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s like a congressman not knowing of Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. It’s surprising since Deming and Juran’s work essentially built quality engineering principles and the quality management system. Their work is still very valuable to solving today’s quality problems, modern quality publications still reference Deming and Juran’s work.

    Q: What do professionals under the age of 35 see as the future of quality?
    A: I see further growth in quality.
    People turn to quality when times get tough. The US and the rest of the world is at a slowed pace of economic growth. Companies will seek out lean and six sigma practices to maximize existing resources.
    With baby boomers retiring you will see a smaller workforce which leads to lean and six sigma practices. As baby boomers get older I anticipate a lot of growth in quality principles in medical service sector such as hospitals seeking to create efficiency and better services for customers.
    There is a lot of global competition. Companies still continue to outsource and purchase materials from outside the US. Companies domestically and abroad will seek how to get an advantage and one of those will be to use quality principles.
    Quality will utilize technology, but the core concepts will remain the same. As technology has grown, Deming’s and Juran’s principles have continued to be applicable. A few new ideas or guidances will hopefully come out on how to use that technology with quality. Since Deming and Juran’s ideas came out we already have MS Excel, JMP, electronic signatures and records, inspection systems capable of 100% inspection, interactive computerized learning modules, networked systems.
    Currently, no one can learn about quality principles from k-12 or in college. Industrial engineers comes close, but it’s only a small part of the QMS. To learn about quality principles you need to get your masters in quality, learn it through an elective in some MBA programs, take courses designed for the working professional, or learn on the job. I’ve seen an expansion in learning about quality, I don’t know exactly when but the graduate courses are fairly recent. There is job growth in the quality field and a major lack of highly trained and skilled quality folks, so I expect it would be a matter of time before it is offered as a major in college.

  13. Nasser says:

    Learning has changed over the past 25 years and is continually changing at an even faster rate. We, humans, acquire knowledge, through learning from previous generations; each new generation starting from a higher level from the previous. As a result, past learning does become redundant at some point in time – although that past knowledge is “nice to read”, they are no longer essential for the practical application and advancement of that knowledge stream.

    I do not want to sound disrespectful to any one, but I do wonder, whether knowing about Deming and Juran is “nice to read” or is essential for the application and advancement of Quality knowledge.

  14. Scott Rutherford says:

    Quality has many facets and diverse layers. You can find technical pieces of quality in any industry and thus should NEVER be relegated to only specific undergraduate programs in engineering or operations management. I believe Sir Ronald Fisher’s work stems from the biological sciences so what is wrong with infusing experimental design work in agricultural programs?

    To me, relying on academia to add programs is a bad way to go. Talk about silos. They protect their programs with the ferocity of a mother lion. I taught (2001)undergraduate business stats using Hoerl & Snee’s text to give students an understanding of how statistics can be used in everyday processes. Two issues: youth of today expect answers to be given to them and the current school programs do not teach about “process” so there was no real experience to derive towards the need for improvement. Until schools systems are truly seen as a “system” and not deride the voice of the taxpayers (customer) we will continue to see the lack of rememberance of what Shewhart, Sarasohn, Pearson, Fisher, Juran, et. al. has brought to the current state of the QBOK.

  15. Wayne G. Fischer, PhD says:

    Well…I think Mr. Nasser’s post illustrates perfectly what I said. *If* he were well- informed as to the content and applicability of Deming’s and Juran’s body of work – and the other masters’ – and had any real depth and breadth of knowledge *and* experience in just about every aspect of quality, it would be crystal clear why knowledge of the past is so important…rather than repeating it or missing out on its wisdom altogether.

    And, speaking of repeating the past, the post by Mr. Muthu is a good example…

  16. Paul, you asked – Am I being nostalgic, or does the quality community bear some responsibility for making sure its philosophic foundations are not lost to history?

    Paul, you and ASQ are indeed responsible for this. First there was the disastrous “Cowboy Quality” QP article, and the Six Sigma Academy Alliance. Through out all that is old, bring in the new. If you want to speak at an ASQ conference, it must be about “new” techniques. I was heartened that the WQCI this year is looking for back to basics. I’ve even offered to do Dr. Deming’s Red Bead Experiment! It is ASQ(C) that has abandoned its roots. Gee, now Mikel Harry even has to give his stuff away for free!

    I can’t speak for the under 35′s. However, other members (Steve Byers to name one)
    and myself have exposed teenagers to Dr. Deming’s teachings through the Red Beads. Let’s indeed get back to basics, but also celebrate new applications of the tried and true.

    • Paul Borawski says:

      Steve, thanks for your thoughts and your efforts to keep the foundations alive. By the way, I don’t think ASQ ever through anything out.

  17. This is a great short read about Deming: W. Edwards Deming: The Story of a Truly Remarkable Person – – Great Refresher!

    • Paul Borawski says:

      Guy, thanks for the link. I look forward to reading about Dr. Deming’s life over the weekend. Our family watched “Immigrant’s Gift” a video on the life of Dr. Juran. I can’t provide a link, but would send a disk of you’re interested.

  18. Paul
    Thanks for the question and the opportunity to keep the conversation going.

    See my response at http// “Learning the Past or Learning from the Past”.

  19. Joseph Ludford says:

    Sorry to say, ASQ looks like a bureaucracy trying to preserve itself with new slogans and programs. The service is great, but where is the leadership in thinking about how organizations should use quality concepts in the future, including how they should be led when it comes to quality values. The work of the founders of quality is well worth knowing to inform future thinking by leaders as well as practitioners. Future thinking about the role of quality at the top of the organizaton is something we desperately need.

    • Paul Borawski says:

      Joseph, ASQ’s Future of Quality Study which ASQ conducts every three years is one example of how we help anticipate and lead the future of quality. We’re just about ready to release the 20011 study. I’ll provide the link when its available. The study prompts a lot of discussion about the future of quality and the role of quality executives. We host discussions for corporations and organizations all over the world. Several national quality bodies are planning events and further research based on the study. We’re also discussing a governmental implications study. And The Conference Board Quality Council issued a report titled “A Leadership Prescription for the Future of Quality” based on the 2008 Future of Quality Study. ASQ’s Executive Roundtable has explored in-depth the future of quality. The roundtable includes senior quality officers of many global organizations.

  20. Mark S. Phillips PhD says:

    This – Registration schemes and 6 sigma cults have become a substitute for continuous improvement. When you leave out the lessons learned via Shewhart, Deming, et al., it become easy to sell the “quick fix”. ASQ should be promoting CI. We need to move away from the flavor of the day quality fixes and promote the discipline needed for true CI.

  21. Hello to Paul, and the many people both reading and posting. As a long-time member-leader in ASQ, I have had many experiences with the past and present in this movement. I’ve worked to influence change in ASQ, and you can read my current blog post (in response to Paul’s post above), at my own blog My focus is on “Right Q’s” – asking the right questions in these turbulent times, to generate better answers (and build a better future together). I look forward to the comments of our many readers both here, and on my own blog site.

  22. John Hunter says:

    Managers fail to adopt old, proven ideas. I blame, mostly, managers themselves for this. Organizations, like ASQ, should also do a much better job. Unfortunately, ASQ has a long way to go in promoting quality. Huge amounts of historical content is locked away, hidden from the open internet. Also, I agree with Steve Prevette’s comments (Aug 24th comment), in my experience in dealing with ASQ (and watching from afar for years now) there is far too much attention on growing revenue and far to little on promoting good management practices. That isn’t that surprising for a bureaucracy. They often turn to attempts to grow revenue (and often promotions, bonuses…) over any mission the organization has.

    It makes perfect sense for ASQ to focus on the mission and seek revenue to allow greater reach. I’m sure that is how ASQ wants to see the last few decades. I don’t see it that way, but I doubt that matters much.

    I’ll actually give ASQ’s web presence a good review over the next few weeks. I haven’t paid much attention in a few years and it is good too see if ASQ has started to take providing good content online seriously every few years (but from 1995-2009 I never found much good being done, sadly – the potential is huge for ASQ but it has not been a priority from what I can tell). At the same time I monitor what is going with management online pretty heavily and find extremely few references to ASQ material in all the content I review (which is not a good sign for ASQ).

    Some of my old, related posts: